Carr, David. "Torah on the Heart: Literary Jewish Textuality Within Its Ancient Near Eastern Context." Oral Tradition 25:1 (2010), 17-40.
Much scholarly study has been done regarding theories of textual transmission of the Old Testament. These studies have influenced our view of other texts from the Ancient Near East, particularly those which, like the Hebrew Bible, have endured for many generations (Carr 2010, 17). However, relatively little interest has been shown until recently as regards the method of reliable oral transmission of materials through multiple generations. Carr considers it very likely that a combination of oral and textual materials were used, particularly in education of the elite cultural class, to pass on traditional teachings (Carr 2010, 18).
Literacy in antiquity, in Carr's view, consists not only of learning to read and write, but also mastering the material of the religious and cultural worls in which one is to be literate (Carr 2010, 18). Carr compres the process of learning literature to the process of mastering a musical score, in which the material is internatlized and largely committed to memory, but the score remains available for consultation and to correct the recall (Carr 2010, 19).
Carr surveys and compares education as we know it from Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece, before turning to Israel and drawing conclusions.
Mesopotamian documents show many instances of written words as prompts for a larger body of material known by memory (Carr 2010, 20). The memorized materials appear to be a rather standardized canon, with emphasis on the Epic of Gilgamesh. Likewise, Carr finds evidence of Egyptian writings with mnemonic prompts for students who were to memorize the teachings presented (Carr 2010, 21). Greek education differs somewhat from that of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The fully alphabetic script sets it apart, as does what has been assumed to be a high rate of literacy (Carr 2010, 22). However, Carr still finds a strong emphasis on memorization of imporant stories, again, guided by some written prompts.
Carr observes that we have relatively less information about education in ancient Israel partly because of the more perishable writing materials used there and the climate which was less conducive to preservation (Carr 2010, 23). However, the information available does point to a system similar to that found in other cultures from similar times and regions. Reading and writing were tools used in education, which consisted of mastering the knowledge base required for participation in society. The point of education was internalizing the cultural message (Carr 2010, 24).
Carr continues his survey by evaluating biblical texts from a text-critical perspective, considering variant readings (Carr 2010, 24). Parry's work suggests that memorized texts have different patterns of variations than texts preserved by literary copying (Carr 2010, 25). Carr describes this phenomenon in considerable detail.
Carr describes what he would consider "memory variants" as occurring frequently in the manuscripts we have of ancient works (Carr 2010, 28). They differ in their nature from the errors which would be made by someone looking at and copying a document. The pattern of memory variants rather than strictly literary copyist errors appears widespread throughout the cultures Carr surveys (Carr 2010, 30). Texts expand or contract, but when memorized, they tend both to expand and to harmonize in content with other sections of a text (Carr 2010, 31).
In effect, Carr finds that the important texts are preserved, with no change of meaning. However, they may undergo change of wording (Carr 2010, 32). The message is taken inoto the heart and mind of the student, and reflected accurately.